Minimal barriers, patience necessary for successful telehealth adoption

Commonwealth Fund brief analyzes successful case studies from the VHA, Partners HealthCare, Centura Health at Home
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Successful adoption of telehealth requires breaking down barriers to patient participation, concerted efforts from multiple stakeholders and ample time to integrate systems, according to a Commonwealth Fund brief on telehealth case studies from three healthcare systems.

For the brief, authors Andrew Broderick and David Lindeman--codirectors of the Center for Innovation and Technology in Public Health, at the Washington, D.C.-based Public Health Institute--examine case studies from the Veterans Health Administration, Boston-based Partners HealthCare and Denver-based Centura Health at Home. All three organizations successfully implemented telehealth programs, according to the authors. Such programs, they say, through "timely" and "interactive" care interventions, can help organizations improve both financialperformance and clinical outcomes.

"Specific outcomes of [remote patient monitoring] include reducing hospitalizations and healthcare costs; improving patient knowledge, satisfaction and clinical outcomes; and activating patients to better manage their own health and care," the authors write. "However, despite the potential broad-based benefits, their use is still in the early stages of adoption for most providers."

A primary barrier to participation in such programs can be the cost for patients, according to the authors. That's one reason the VA announced plans to waive copayments for patients who receive telehealth services, they note.

According to the Partners case study, the authors say, teaching patients self-management skills via telehealth led to a 50 percent reduction in heart failure-related readmission rates for enrolled patients, and a 44 percent reduction in non-heart failure-related readmissions. Since 2006, the Center for Connected Health, which drives many of Partners' telehealth programs, estimates that its Connected Cardiac Care Program has generated roughly $10 million in cost savings for its 1,200 enrollees.

American Telemedicine Association CEO Jonathan Linkous calls the government a "lagging partner" for the telehealth industry, and says that government policies have been the biggest barriers to telehealth deployment for the better part of two decades in a recent commentary. However, he also says that 2013 should be a big year for telehealth, given continued provider shortages and rising costs.

Analyst firm Berg Insight predicts that the number of home monitoring systems with integrated communications capabilities will reach 9.4 million connections worldwide by 2017.

To learn more:
- read the Commonwealth Fund's synthesis brief (.pdf)
- download all three case studies

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